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Verbs: Lesson #1
Some definitions to consider
Definition #1:
• A verb is an action word. It shows the
action in the sentence.
Source: Sr. Mary Agatha, St. Gabriel’s Catholic School, 1968.
Definition #2
• A verb is the central unit of any sentence of
clause, and all the other words in a sentence
take grammatical form based on how they
relate to it. A verb can express action (run,
live, change), or states of being (is, are) or
occurrences (happen, become). Sentences
can have more than one verb. A clause is a
sub-unit of a sentence that has one verb.
Source: The Brief Thomson Handbook (sec. 30c)
Definition #3
• A verb is a word that characteristically is the
grammatical center of a predicate and expresses
an act, occurrence, or mode of being, that in
various languages is inflected for agreement with
the subject, for tense, for voice, for mood, or for
aspect, and that typically has rather full descriptive
meaning and characterizing quality but is
sometimes nearly devoid of these especially when
used as an auxiliary or linking verb.
Source: www.merriamwebster.com
Definition #4
•
1.
2.
3.
A definition which works is one based on structure
and function rather than meaning. Some structural
and functional properties of verbs are:
If tense is marked anywhere in the clause it is
marked on a verb, the first verb in the verb phrase.
If aspect is marked anywhere in the clause, it is
marked on (and with) a verb.
In the present tense in a finite clause, the first verb
in the verb phrase marks agreement with the
subject in person and in number.
Definition #4: continued
4. Verbs occur in two main subclasses:
auxiliary and lexical (main) verbs. The
order of these auxiliaries and the main verb
is fixed.
5. Only verbs can be operators. An operator
precedes the subject in a yes-no question
and immediately precedes the negative
“not” and can contract with the negative
“not.”
Source: Lynn Gordon: Engl 255 Textbook
Differences in Definitions
Some definitions stress meaning.
These definitions often leave people
confused.
What are the actions in these sentences?
His reaction is wonderful.
Her understanding seemed clear.
Some definitions stress structure and
function. These definitions provide ways to
test words to see if they are verbs. They
require evidence to prove that words are
verbs. These tests can be challenging to
learn, but produce consistently reliable
results.
For example, we can test the words in this sentence
to see if they can be changed into the past tense.
His reaction is wonderful.
• His (hised?)
• Reaction (reactioned?)
• Is (was)
• Wonderfuled?
Test result: “Is” must be the verb in this sentence.
Inflection and Verb Form
Inflections
• One property of verbs is that they
inflect. Inflection means they change
form. So let’s start by looking at what
we mean by the “forms” of the verb.
The Base Form
• All English verbs start with a “base”
form. This is the form you look up to
learn about the verb in the dictionary. If
you look up one of the other forms, you
will be referred back to the base form.
The base form is always uninflected,
because it hasn’t been changed.
Finding the Base Form
• If you aren’t around a dictionary, you can
always figure out the base form by filling in a
verb in sentences like ONE of these:
EXAMPLE:
I really like to ______ (other words).
I really like to swim.
I really like to be (silly).
I really like to stab (the wet ground with a pitch fork). OR
That _________frequently.
That happens frequently.
That occurs frequently.
The infinitive form
• The infinitive form of the verb is formed
is formed by adding “to” in front of the
base form. The infinitive form is not an
inflected form of the verb, since no
change happens to the actual form of
the verb.
EXAMPLES:
to have; to be; to do; to imply; to run
The -s form
• This is the form of the verb used to form
the third person singular in the present
tense. In English, this is most
commonly formed by simply adding “s”
or “es”, but there are spelling
exceptions:
EXAMPLES:
have>>has; do>>does; imply>>implies
Dictionary/Language Note:
• Most dictionaries, including online ones,
will mark exceptions to form rules.
• Whenever a verb form is slightly
different than the general pattern (in
other words there is an exception to the
form rule), the verb or the form is called
irregular.
The -ing participle form
• This form is produced by adding -ing to
the base. Again, there are sometimes
spelling changes in the base (usually
dropped final “e” or doubling of the final
consonant).
EXAMPLES:
do > doing; have > having; go>going;
be> being; write>writing; cut> cutting.
The past tense form
• This is the form used to create the past tense
of the verb. In English many, but not all,
verbs are formed by adding “d” or “ed” to the
base form. There are numerous exceptions.
And some verbs have two past tense forms!
EXAMPLES:
walk> walked; go> went; have> had; see> saw;
cut> cut; reject> rejected.
More on the past tense form
To figure out the past tense form of a
verb, inflect the base form in a sentence
with a past tense adverb:
Example: Yesterday, the man ______(other words)
(sleep; murder; have; reply; blow)
Yesterday, the man slept.
Yesterday, the man murdered (his best friend). OR
Yesterday, it ____________.
Yesterday it happened.
The Past Participle Form
• For many, (but sadly not all), verbs the
past tense form and the past participle
form are the same form.
EXAMPLES:
Walk> walked (past tense form)>walked (past participle
form);
Run > ran (past tense form)> run (past participle form).
Some important differences -The past tense form is used by itself to express
the past tense.
I walked a mile yesterday.
The past participle form is used with other verbs
(called auxiliaries) to form perfect aspect or
passive.
I have walked ten miles. The dog was walked by his owner.
Figuring out the past participle
• You can always figure out the past participle
of the verb by moving the base form through
a sentence with a form of the auxiliary verb
“have.”
EXAMPLE:
The man has ___________ (other words).
(buy) The man has bought (a gift).
(die) The man has died.
The accident has __________.
(happen) The accident has happened.
One wildly irregular verb: BE
You are going to hear a lot about the verb
“be” (base form), which is sometimes
called the verb “to be” (infinitive form).
This verb is wildly irregular in English,
and before we go on, it’s worth looking
at it carefully.
The forms of “be”
•
•
•
•
•
Base form: be
Infinitive form: to be
“s” form: is
-ing participle form: being
Past tense form: was/were (depending on
subject)
• Past participle form: been (pronounced as
“bin.”)
Editing for Verbs
People everywhere have trouble with verb
forms, in part because English has so
many irregular verb forms.
Common editing symbols for verb form
problems are: V, vb, and vb form.
Exercise
• Look at the following sentences.
Identify ALL the verbs in these
sentences and determine if the verb
forms are correct. If not, what verb form
should be used?
Sentences
• 1. Mary had went to Florida for vacation with her
friends.
• 2. The flight really shaked her up.
• 3. The plane dove into a spin.
• 4. The pilot fought for control of the plane.
• 5. The passengers cryed loudly in their seats.
• 6. The stewardess strode towards the cockpit with a
bottle of aspirin!
• 7. In Florida, Mary booked a return trip via train.
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